The body elastic
On a day too hot to walk the asphalt
of the outdoor city, we maneuver
through the cool black of museum rooms
where human cadavers — preserved
in polymer — stretch and bend in elegant
leanness, all musculature and bone.
As I examine a half-skinned woman
kneeling on one knee, her other leg bent
and poised forward, toes pointed,
I touch the wave of my clavicle involuntarily.
Her breasts thrust ahead — full, nippled,
intact, sheathing her torso like a vest,
while the rest of her is naked muscle,
ligament, ribcage, spine, and behind
her sacrum the phalanges — still
fingernailed — trickling breezily from her
backward-flowing arms, curved
like the winged Nike of Samothrace.
The pointing finger of my splayed hand
supports the jugular notch of my sternum
while I lean toward the pink beltstrap
muscles of her neck. Her head arcs back,
eyes watching into stars to join the far-flung
head of her petrified sister, the Victory.
After the exhibit we emerge from the
museum’s stone passage into a sea of heat.
Trees stand masted and green against the blue
sky, and behind them the towering skyline
of man’s intransigence, where we are attracted
irresistibly, on the tide of our humanness.
Listen to a podcast of this poem here.
The exhibit we saw was "Body Worlds" by Gunther von Hagens at the Museum of Science and Industry. It was a transforming experience, to see bodies at various stages of aging, and organs in states of disease and health. Please go if it comes near you. The Kneeling Woman can be found here. This page shows where Body Worlds exhibits are and will be.